I could title this post “Into the Wilderness,” because that’s sort of what this part of the revision process feels like. It isn’t quite wilderness, because I have come this way before, but the path ahead looks challenging and unforgiving. Well, that’s because it is.
We left off last time at the point of picking up a colored-ink pen and starting to read from the beginning of the manuscript. I’ve done the preliminary work of gathering all my tools and setting up my StoryLines document, and now I’m beginning the first phase of the revision process. I’m doing two things on this read-thorough. I’m noticing problems and making note of them, and jotting down any ideas I have right then about how to fix them. Some of the things I’m looking for and how I’m dealing with them:
- If it’s a simple matter of sentence structure, grammar issues, word substitution or the like, I make inline edits.
- If I think a few more lines of narrative or dialogue are needed, and I know what they are, I write them in, using the back of the page if necessary.
- If I need to write a new scene, I mark an asterisk in the margin and number it, then turn to my binder and write down the asterisk and number and as much detail as possible about what I think the scene needs to contain or address. I am not writing these new scenes right now.
- If I notice an inconsistency, I may mark it with a margin note or with an asterisk and number, depending on the seriousness of the problem. For instance, if a character has inexplicably disappeared for a number of scenes, I’ll make a note that says ‘where’s X?’ I will not stop right now to figure out how to fix a problem like this. That will be for phase two.
As I finish each scene, I turn to the StoryLines program and fill out the cards for that scene. If I were an outliner, I would probably have done this work before I wrote the novel, but since I’m a discovery writer, I’m doing it at this point as a checking system. It’s a great way to get an overview of the structure and internal consistency of the story.
I’m also using the Notes section of StoryLines to keep a style sheet for the novel. This idea came from a post that appeared recently on Mary Robinette Kowal’s journal, in which she very kindly shared the style sheet her editor created for a recent novel, and talked about why such a thing is important for copyeditors, proofreaders, and typesetters in keeping the novel consistent. I thought this was also a good idea for writers in making sure the novel is consistent through the revising and editing stages, so I’m taking note of unusual words, spellings, etc.
Also in the interests of consistency, I’m taking note of little details like hair and eye colors, descriptions of recurring settings, and other items that I might have inadvertently changed through that fast first draft.
I mentioned that I’m using several different colored inks as I do this read-through and markup. This is one of Holly Lisle’s tips. Using a different color for each working session makes it easier to find the notes that belong with a particular section of the novel.
So in this fashion I am rolling through the novel, marking, cutting, fixing, jotting, noticing, thinking, assessing, and mapping. This is the first part of the process, and I expect I will have it done within the next few days. This part needs to be done fairly quickly, because I am attempting to read the entire novel into my head at once to see where the holes are. That’s why I am not stopping to work on complicated fixes at this stage. They will come in the second part of the process. And the second part will likely be more difficult…
…to be continued…
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